Driving with a gun? Hidden vault concealing guns and money is hot-selling accessory for pickups, SUVs
Grandville's Mark Tuttle loves to remove the doors and hood from his 2016 Jeep Wrangler and spend a weekend hammock camping in the Michigan woods for a weekend. It used to be that when he stopped at a gas station to grab a payday chocolate bar, he left his things open.
"My vehicle is accessible to anyone who walks past," he said. "Everyone wants to go and take everything with them. Most of the time that's not a problem, but I won't leave my wallet or my phone or a gun accessible."
So he looked for "safer" storage space and made a discovery: a hidden 12-gauge cold-rolled steel safe that is screwed into the center console between his two front seats. The secret hiding place is supposed to protect money, telephones, credit cards, handguns or valuables.
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Mark Tuttle, 55, from Grandville, Michigan, has a secret vault in his 2016 Jeep Wrangler, and now, he said, most of his friends do. He is pictured here in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes in 2017.
"I installed it in the center console under the armrest myself," said Tuttle, who works for an auto parts supplier. "Several people bought them because of mine. They all had wranglers. Every time you step out of the jeep, you have to take everything of value and put it in your pockets and take it with you."
Tuttle is not alone.
In 2020, the Columbus-based Console Vault expects the most profitable year in almost two decades. Co-founder Scott Bonvissuto said people have been focusing more on personal safety and gun safety in recent months, in line with the increasingly popular law of concealment.
"We saw significant price changes in in-vehicle safe orders over the course of 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19 and the increase in arms sales since quarantine," he said.
In fact, arms sales in the U.S. have increased, according to national data.
The FBI said it carried out 3.7 million background checks on firearms purchases in March, most of which the office had ever recorded in a single month. According to USA TODAY, they exceeded sales in March 2019 by more than 1 million.
Customers in Texas, California and Florida buy most safes - for their Ford F-150 pickups, ram trucks and Chevy Silverados.
As other companies have recognized the trendy vehicle accessories, an estimated 75,000 people made their purchases at Console Vault in 2019, which invented the concept. Founded in 2002, the company also installs the hidden safes as part of an option package for buyers of the best-selling Ford Super Duty pickup at its Louisville, Kentucky facility.
Scott Bonvissuto, co-founder of Console Vault, sticks a pistol into a steel vault that is screwed into a 2016 Ford F-150. This photo was taken in Cedar City, Utah on February 12, 2016.
Console Vault, a brand like Kleenex Tissue or Band-Aid tape, is expected to sell more than 200,000 safes annually by 2024.
Ford and Toyota dealers sell safes to people who take them home to install. However, owners often buy directly from the company at a price between $ 250 and $ 350, depending on the size of the vehicle and whether the owner wants a key or a combination lock.
The vaults are designed for most major truck and SUV brands, including Cadillac, Dodge, GMC, Lincoln, Nissan, Subaru, and Volkswagen. They also have security vaults for a handful of cars, including the Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion, and Toyota Camry. Harley Davidson is brand new.
Other companies make safes for many purposes, but Console Vault actually meets or exceeds the strict specifications that automakers only require for in-vehicle use.
Police officers who buy the vault praise the ease of installation and bolt design.
"When we first developed this, we were the only game in town," said Bonvissuto. "We would do a fair and people would say, 'Omigod. Where have you been all my life?' Now, fast forward to the current times, other companies have prevailed. We rely on our innovative technical design and our reputation for details. A Chevy safe doesn't fit in a Ford and a Ford safe doesn't fit in a Chevy. "
The original idea for the company came from working with Rolls-Royce owners who wanted to protect their valuables.
"Console Vault is a great locker," wrote product critic Maxwell Matthewson on September 22 for offgridweb.com, a magazine about city survival and preparation.
Armando Herrera and his fiancee Erika Licon (far left) have installed a security vault in their Toyota Tundra. Herrera, Licon, Larry Grajales and O.J. Lozano is shown here at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Bar-B-Que cook-off competition on March 2, 2020.
Chewing gum risk
Women make up a growing proportion of vault buyers.
Erika Licon, 37, a small business owner in Houston, Texas, said she went to a charity auction and found the secret vault to be an issue. She went home and did a little research, ordered one, and surprised her fiance by incorporating them into her 2019 Toyota Tundra herself.
"My fiance has a gun, so we had it for it," she said. "But in my industry I have a lot of important documents with me, such as passports. You always want to have personal documents in your car. You have no idea how many people have their backpacks stolen from the car, whether they just ran into it to take a subway sandwich or go to the gas station and get a pack of chewing gum. "
Scott Bonvissuto, co-founder of Console Vault in Columbus, is pictured here in his 2019 F-150 pickup on June 9, 2020. He sees an increase in business with COVID-19. The security device is popular with pickup and SUV owners.
Bonvissuto, 56, grew up in Cleveland, the son of a civil engineer and an office manager. He's a street smart car guy who started selling running boards, spoilers, and pinstripes. He found out what people wanted and needed, and then set up his company, which focused on security. He said customers tell him that weapons are becoming more common and they are looking for a solution when they can't carry their guns, especially when they go to schools, courthouses, post offices, and fitness centers.
"We are doing a destructive test," said Bonvissuto. "How long does it take you to break in? We use different tools that a car thief would use. We have a hammer, crowbar, screwdriver, wrench. We tell our engineer to take this 5-pound sledgehammer and How long does it take? Or a crowbar and try to open the lid. We're testing our own product. We're going to try to think like a thief. What kind of tools does a thief carry that smashes and grabs? ""
The vault's main customer, based on the company's latest demographic study, is an athlete between the ages of 35 and 55 with an income of $ 125,000 or more, Bonvissuto said.
"The hidden carry community attracts us. Women fall into the group more than ever," he said.
James "Chris" Nicola, 60, from Austin, is a retired Houston police officer who works as a security advisor and recommends the undercover safe to relieve anxiety, especially for men and women who use handguns that are becoming more common.
"You just don't have to worry," said Nicola, who led security classes for the license to apply.
Tim Dye, 47, is an Ohio police officer who installed a steel vault on his 2018 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Limited and 2006 Dodge Ram Truck to hide valuables. Here he rides through the Great Smoky Mountains in March 2020.
Tim Dye, 47, a police officer in Delaware County, Ohio, installed a vault on his Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Limited in 2018. Before that, he had one in his 2006 Dodge Ram Pickup.
"Usually you get a simple box from Walmart, Meijer or a local gun shop and put it in the back of the truck or in a saddlebag. It's not safe, it's only there," he said.
"The first thought that people have is to put things in your glove box," he said. "But you can take a screwdriver and burst it - and get your gun. Now a criminal has your gun. But it's not just for firearms. When you go to the beach, you don't want to take your wallet or your cell phone with you. And it's there when you come back. "
Kayaking, hunting, hiking
Marianna Magyar, 46, a high school teacher in Madera, California, makes product reviews on the Hun.tress.308 YouTube channel - a nod to her Hungarian heritage. Console Vault sent her a safe to try and she loved it so much that she made a video in May. The response from consumers has been overwhelming.
"What I love is that nobody knows it's there," she said. "I have this big armrest in the middle, you can fold it up and it looks like a seat. But then you open it and there is the console. If I just try to get out and get started. A hike, I don't want my cell phone or take my wallet with you. But you want things to be out of sight. "
Marianna Magyar, 46, from Madera, California, is an adventurer whose hobbies include hunting and hiking. She has a license to carry a weapon and keeps her weapons and other valuables in her 2014 Ford F-150 in her console vault. This photo was taken in September 2019 at the Badger Flat Campground in the Sierra National Forest.
Magyar said it took her 5 to 7 minutes to install the vault, and the most common use when camping, hunting and kayaking. She loved the product so much that she asked the company if she could become an ambassador. Now she has an agreement where she can get a percentage of her recommendations.
The Free Press asked her to interview her after watching the video review. Magyar was initially not proposed for the story by the company.
"All of these Facebook pages and different groups, people loved it," she said. "I had men who said they had a locker, but that's better. They have men who carry guns and these tomboy girls in Montana who drive and hunt trucks. I got it for my 2014 Ford F-150 Ecoboost. I am part of a lot of groups with hunters. They say this solves a lot of problems. "
Follow Phoebe Wall Howard on Twitter @phoebesaid.
This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: Hidden Console Vault holds guns, money safe in vehicles
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